Caring for an aging parent can cause increased stress and decreased mental health. In recent years, the number of people who provide eldercare services for family members while employed outside of the home has increased dramatically. Studies have shown that the demands of eldercare have negative impacts on mental health, which in turn results in lower work performance. But until now, no study has directly examined the link between eldercare demands and job performance. Additionally, no previous studies have identified why some people who provide eldercare services do not experience negative work-related outcomes and others do. Hannes Zacher of the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland in Australia hopes that the results of her recent study will help organizations and clinicians better understand the relationship between eldercare demands and work performance so that they can target interventions and strategies that will enhance both.
Zacher looked at reports from 165 individuals providing eldercare to family members in their homes, as well as data from an additional family member and a colleague of each individual. The study revealed that the participants who were most satisfied with the level of eldercare they were providing had relatively little negative job performance. Specifically, the participants with the highest levels of eldercare satisfaction had very high levels of mental health, which influenced their job outcome in the positive direction. The results support the Conservation of Resources Theory, which implies that resources in one domain of life support and increase availability of resources in other domains. Therefore, people who have strong family support and positive emotional responses from providing eldercare will have a larger well of healthy emotional resources available to them to draw on during their workday. Zacher suggests that organizations begin to implement interventions and programs designed to help employees increase their awareness of the eldercare-work dynamic. She said, “One possibility to do so may be to offer advice, services, and practical activities that provide meaning to the caregiving role and, in turn, may raise satisfaction with eldercare tasks.” This will result in better mental health and higher productivity on the job and will also make the organization a more attractive employer to job seekers.
Zacher, H., Nerina L. J., and Winter, G. Eldercare Demands, Mental Health, and Work Performance: The Moderating Role of Satisfaction with Eldercare Tasks. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 17.1 (2012): 52-64. Print.
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